this software
A webtool for democratic, community self-management
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How to use it
adjust as necessary
1. Register
2. Login
3. Browse projects
4. Go to your home page
5. Start a project
6. Make it public
7. Associate it with other projects
8. Invite people
9. Make group decisions. Solve problems.
10. Prioritize efforts.
11. Register a domain name
12. People will make commitments to your project
13. People will start projects that help yours
14. Together, you will run projects online, transparently, democratically.

Projects first

You can initiate your own ad hoc project, by going to your home page, and clicking "create a project"
Invitation & permission

You can invite and accept members to your project. This gives members participatory permission.
Direct participation

Members can make proposals, suggestions, commitments and vote on priorities. They can initiate their own projects and associate them with any other project.
Public transparency, community participation

The project can be transparent, visible to the public, but run by its community members. It makes clear that increased transparancy is tied to increased community participation.

Current plan
1. Get the Tango Center working as a direct democracy, making larger community deciions with this tool. This means that the power structure of the Tango Center non-profit corporation puts the broad membership at the top, rather than a board, representatives, or a big meeting. This avoids large meetings, and offers more continuous participation. Smaller decisions are made in the projects groups, allowing for autonomy, with community sanction via the web. People can register and vote at the TC, will see current votes/projects in the Tango Times, and see a projection of latest survey votes on the back wall.

2. Next, role out this same tool for the city of Eugene, as a "alternative government", and see how many active projects are created with it. Try to push citizen participation via the tool, at Internet cafes. Get the city to adopt it as a participation & economic development tool, gradually moving it towards a democratic decision-making tool, as participation increases.

To Do

A feature that lets users pass their workflows to others: useful sequences, forms & web-mechanisms. Makes it easier to start complex democratic projects.

But, at the moment, people get quite far just by seeing the work of others. Transparency is a good first step.

December 28, 2005 10:42 PM   

Once an idea in a list or suggestion-poll reaches some threshold of interest and commitment, it gets 'promoted' to a project.

December 29, 2005 8:11 PM   

Standards for Transparency & Democracy

Many organzations essentially run themselves with web-based tools. Very few run democratically or transparently, and what that would mean is not specifically understood. We would like to propose technical standards for transparency, a prerequisite for standards for democratic organizations.

We want it to work, in the real world, so we are developing standards by developing working software to implement these standards. In this way, popular movements can assert transparency & democracy by pointing to this tool, and requiring its use, or the use of something meeting the same standards.

January 8, 2006 2:39 PM   
An open process in real life

People should be able to contribute anything they think is helpful. They should be able to freely associate, with others, and with other projects, and demand an open community process.

This helps projects to avoid developing into machines, that trap their members in a bureaucracy, one which has stopped serving people's needs.
This super-anarchistic model (anti-configuration-management?) may not sell well within existing technocratic organizations -- but it seems to work great in real life, where it keeps people excited, surprised, positive, active and more aware of life's possibilities.

March 30, 2006 5:30 PM   

Things to fix, things to improve.

Production diary

real places,
real public decisions,
real web empowerment

We're getting people to use this webtool, in real places, where it matters. If, say, at a community center, people discover their right to know, and direct, the world around them, then they will eventually demand this, for everything, including public & private spheres.

This is face-to-face outreach work, which any activist is familiar with. The more people we introduce to this web application, the greater the payback.

April 9, 2006 12:31 PM   
Evidence of empowerment

As people use community tools, they increasingly expect the right to use them.

The core of this tool, is the creation of ad hoc projects. For this tool, we're inventing lots of new web gadgets for a democratic project community to use.

And yet, the first thing people demand, given the ease of starting projects, are empowerment tools they already have on the web: discussions, group blogs, mailing lists, etc.

So the web demonstrably helps people to rediscover and assert their rights. This project is intended to extend this rediscovery, into realms of transparency, accountability, community work, and direct democracy.

December 13, 2005 11:43 AM   
Holistic democracy

One of the most distinctive features of this tool, is a "suggestion-poll" or "ranked list".

Instead of a user simply "clicking on what they dig" (the model of the ranking system implicitly asks people to look at the whole, and rank the priorities, relative to each other.

There's a notion, in several theories of design/production, that the cycles of work include an "observation" state, where the worker/designer becomes aware of the possibilities at the moment, "orients", and then makes the next decision. This is true even in simple hill-climbing, although, in the case of the suggestion-poll, since the user can add to the survey possibilities, one is building the hill on which one is climbing. Which is how the real world works. We create the local maxima.

March 28, 2006 6:38 PM   

The Tango Center

The Tango Center is the most active community project using this tool. Check it out.

March 31, 2006 5:49 PM   
Clearing a path for coherence

It's funny, but people who build web tools like this, always seem to start out thinking that they are guiding people to do coherent work. The idea is that, somehow, the computer tool will move the user towards a better result.

It can, but only if it has been built, tested and adjusted in the real world, with real people, who give it this capacity.

I've worked on a number of such projects, some computer projects, others community projects. If you really want to help people, you must make sure that there are no obstacles to the user's efforts to do coherent work. And you'll find, always, that they are making your tool better, and more coherent. The product maker, intending to help, discovers that it's very hard not to be an impediment to the user. Helping the user, by creating a truly facilitating product, is quite serious work, and takes serious humility.

Of course, the product maker is a facilitator, and this facilitation role is important ... it's the role of the activist. Just like in life, there are activists that try to hammer you over the head, and others that try to pull the truth from you. The latter approach is much harder, but it's the only one that gives you the right answers.

Possibly the most important goal of this tool, is to make everyone an activist, a facilitator of solutions. This is an ancient idea -- a community can only be strong and cohesive, if each individual within is strong, creative, and understands the value of cooperation.

December 29, 2005 5:44 PM   
Ditching the notion of "management"

People who spend los of time on the web, are used to their "web world" changing quite rapidly. They are quite aware of how change works: "buzz", "memes", "zeitgeist", "swarms", "publicity stunts", "guerilla marketing" etc. They know how to argue on Wikipedia, find people on social networks, broadcast photos & ideas, etc. They feel quite empowered in the web world.

However, the same people do not feel empowered in the real world. This is one-half of the "reality gap" -- and web tools do not really try to bridge the gap.

Let's focus on the most common empowerment problem: the desire to be "managed" by someone else.

Everyone has experience as a wage-slave, often in very hierarchical, tyrannical organizations. This personal history stunts people's initiative ... they are not used to freely organizaing positive solutions to problems, because they are rarely able to do so within a corporate structure.

The reason this webtool focuses on "creating projects", is that a community project needs lots of little projects, constantly, initiated independently, in order to stay fresh, relevant, helpful and interesting for the community. That means everyone should be willing to start lots of projects. Some may go nowhere, some may catch fire, but if you don't start them, easily, communities will not be robust and exciting places.

These ad hoc projects are initiated to change reality for the better. They are built around real places, and real people in those places. When I see places go through genuine positive change, this is how it happens. It's quite alive, exciting and unpredictable. This is what we want a webtool to inspire.

March 20, 2006 6:59 PM   
Connecting without borders

The Tango Center uses this tool, but there are many cases where something involves the Tango Center, doesn't center upon it. A concert tour, for example, can be organized around a group from Buenos Aires, and involve much larger venues than the Tango Center on the west coast. But the Tour can be initiated on the website, without bothering the tour managers or the local members very much. It's kind of like having lots of interesting guests in your house, when you have an infinite capacity for hospitality.

March 30, 2006 5:00 PM   

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